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Meet David Perkins of Social Media Toolworks in Northridge

Today we’d like to introduce you to David Perkins.

David, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I spent 30 years in film and television post production, working for most of the major post houses in Hollywood and Burbank as a telecine colorist. When the 2007 writers’ strike came along, it ended or seriously altered a lot of careers. As a member of both the WGA West and SAG-AFTRA, I supported the strike. But as it dragged on for months, and production ground to a halt, post production facilities began to slash and burn at an unprecedented pace, laying off long-time employees to cut costs. I managed to hang on until early 2010, but I had seen the writing on the wall and had already established my own company in 2008 in preparation for an early end to my career in post-production.

I was in my 50s with a son about to head off to college. I knew no one was about to train me for something new at my age, certainly not anything that paid on a par with post production. So, I knew whatever I did, it had to be something that I was completely in charge of and something that could quickly scale to provide a decent income. The internet seemed a logical place to start looking.

What began as a strategy to build dozens of affiliate marketing websites and to earn an income through commissions from Amazon and other companies, eventually meandered and morphed into a web design and construction business. I had built so many sites for myself that I decided I could do it for other businesses. I quickly came to realize that, as a sole entrepreneur, I could never build enough websites to make a living. I wasn’t charging enough to make it profitable and, on top of that, once I completed a site, I had to go in search of someone else to build one for. One-time fees for a one-off product clearly made no sense. I needed ongoing, recurring income from multiple clients if my business was going to survive.

By early 2011 I had learned enough about creating and promoting a business’s online profile, that helping local businesses market themselves on the web was the logical route for my small agency to take. It evolved slowly to include all aspects of online marketing for business; website design and construction, blogging, search engine optimization, social media management, video production and syndication, mobile and email marketing, lead generation, and on and on.

One of the most important things I discovered on this journey was that almost every business needs some level of internet marketing to sustain and grow itself. The next important thing I learned was that, even if they had the inclination and skill set to do this for themselves, almost no business owner has the time to devote to it. They’re busy people. They’re trying to run a business. These realizations changed my direction and I began to offer business owners a suite of services they really and truly need.

Social Media Toolworks now has a team of savvy marketing consultants, talented designers, skilled web technicians and social media experts to help our clients expand their footprint and raise their profile on the web. The strategies we deploy help to attract more customers, clients and patients to their website and their door.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I don’t think anyone who’s ever started a business would call the process smooth. I think my first year in business grossed about nineteen thousand dollars. The next year it jumped to about 60k, and the third year we topped 100k and felt like we were going to survive. During that time, and even now, the tactics and processes you implement only to throw them out a short time later can be very frustrating. But with a landscape that changes as often and as drastically as the internet, you have no choice but to continually adapt and evolve. If you don’t, you die.

Helping business owners navigate the whims of the internet is never without peril. The strategies that worked 3 or 5 years ago can now get your business completely delisted by Google and other search engines and you can disappear from the internet. So keeping up with the quick pace of evolution in technology, tactics and the ever-changing terms of service for all internet entities means that we’re dancing as fast as we can almost 24/7.

Social Media Toolworks – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Social Media Toolworks is a full-service digital marketing consultancy for businesses of all sizes. Our mission is to help business owners and medical practices raise their internet profile, establish and manage their online reputation, and grow their businesses with leading edge promotional strategies.

What we’re known for, and are best at, is up close and personal, hands-on management of our client’s online assets. But, not all small business owners can afford that kind of “white glove” service. While we make no effort to compete with cheap or free, we understand that our services are sometimes outside the budget parameters for a small business owner.

When this happens, we do our best to direct these people to resources that are either free or very low cost. We will advise them on the steps they can take to setup a website at little cost, or direct them to tutorials and other materials that will help them establish a social media presence without spending a lot of money. We never dismiss anyone just because they can’t afford us. If we can help without investing an inordinate amount of time, we will.

For one thing, it’s just the nice thing to do. But, it also makes perfect business sense. More than once, we’ve had someone come back to us when their budget was healthier and hire us to manage a marketing campaign or the social media outreach for their business. And we’ve been told by these people that it was our willingness to help, even when there was no financial gain for us, that made them want to do business with us later. Or, they’ll refer a friend or family member who needs some help.

It’s just dumb to ignore a prospect because they can’t pay you today. Tomorrow, they could be a huge success with huge budget. And they’ll remember whether or not you treated them well.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
In terms of how we’ve been able to help a business owner, the proudest I’ve been was when we took on a brand new retail business, with no internet footprint at all … no social media, nothing. They were a startup in a very competitive space with long-established competition and in six months, they were dominating on the internet as a result of our efforts on their behalf.

To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure we would be able to do this. Certainly not as quickly as we did. We had never taken on a client with absolutely no internet history. We started from scratch, so I wasn’t really sure how long it would take us to raise their profile. The upside was that there was no negative internet baggage to bury. But there was also nothing to build on.

But, I’m also proud to have helped several businesses get their online strategies up and running even though they were unable to pay us. We try to give the best advice we can to prospective clients, even when there is clearly no financial reward in it for us. When we can direct them to free or inexpensive resources, and they’re willing to take advantage of them and do a little grunt work themselves, the time it takes us to provide a little guidance is well spent.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Deveryn Mori
Kitti McMeel Photography

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